Beth Wonson & Company

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Empowering Executives, Emerging Leaders, Teams, & Individuals For Over 20 Years

What if I get too proud?


We all get to choose if we embrace joy and pride, or if we minimize it. I know which way I’m headed. How about you?

Warning! Pride goeth before the fall!

This sentiment, from the biblical book of Proverbs, ran through my mind for years. My Mother truly believed and lived by these words. One of her primary jobs was to make sure I didn’t get too big for my britches and risk a fall. As a result, compliments were scarce and comments to keep me in check were doled out frequently – for my own good of course. I’m certain it was her way of keeping me safe from the dreaded fall.

When I was working with my amazing friend and colleague, Bart Crawford, he took notice of how I dismissed compliments and minimized feelings of pride or joy that were a natural part of accomplishment. He was the first person to spotlight this tendency in me. Luckily for me we traveled and worked together extensively for three years so there was an extended time over which he helped me change this pattern of behavior. When someone complimented me on my skills or expertise, he would simply ask me, “Did you hear that Beth? Did you really hear it?” Or at the end of a well-done training or consulting day, he’d say, “Let’s just take a minute and let that sink in. Sit with it. Enjoy it.

As my world expanded and I began meeting and hanging out with people who believed in the power of positive energy and words, they would look at me in amazement when I tossed out a negative cautionary comment. When my daughter Lily was joyously running across a safe and beautiful grassy yard, I yelled out, “Be careful you don’t fall” and my friend looked at me and said, “Why do want to put that fear into her mind?” I didn’t want too. I had grown up with those kinds of fears. I began to see and notice all the places I did this. I chose to change. It was easy to do this for my children. But I still wasn’t fully doing this for myself.

In recent years I’ve become much more conscious of the patterns of cautious behavior (some may say rocks) that I adopted from my well-meaning Mom. As I ventured into my own business and people began hiring me for my skills and expertise, I would sometimes be a little self-deprecating. I put disclaimers around my expertise and knowledge, just in case I jinxed myself and brought on bad luck, aka “the fall!

Early on, when I was facilitating a retreat for executives, one of the participants wrote on his feedback form that the experience was amazing, but it would have been more powerful for him if I had stood firmly in my knowledge instead of prefacing my statements with ambivalence. During the course of my facilitation I made statements such as, "this may or may be true for you, however for me…” or “you may not agree with this but …” He wrote, “Be the expert you are.

I allowed fear of the jinx, and fear of the fall, to keep me small. And in the process I denied myself the pleasure of joy and pride. I held myself back from standing in my skills and talents, and most importantly from proudly standing in my unique power and authenticity!

As I ventured further and further into the world, I began connecting with people who dared to stand in their power and unapologetically embrace pride and joy. People who enjoyed sharing compliments, believed in me, and shared in my excitement because it also expanded their good feelings. There was no competition, fear, or comparison because there is enough pride and joy for all of us, and when you feel it, it actually multiples the limitless supply in the world!

It was an uncomfortable and new experience at first. I was self-conscious. I had to intentionally reject the urge to negatively judge compliments. I did this by dismissing the tape in my head and instead paid attention to the feelings of pride and joy in my body and my heart. Feelings I had ignored or rejected for years because of the fear of the mythical fall.

About a year ago I humbly and quietly shared something potentially big and exciting with my dear friend and fellow coach, Travis Stock. Upon hearing me he exclaimed loudly, “Don’t you dare minimize your joy about this Beth!”

His words were like a cold splash of water. I could hear that he wanted to experience joy through my joy and I was not only denying me, but I was denying the universal well of joy that exists in the world for all of us.

When you hang out with people who embrace pride and joy, they also embrace honesty and authenticity and call you out when you aren’t in alignment with your truth. It is hard to hide. I heard Travis. I chose to feel the joy! I let it well up inside me. I allowed myself to smile. And guess what? There was no fall! The opportunity didn’t pan out entirely in the way I hoped it might. But it was an amazing journey and proof of what is possible for me. Instead of being hesitant, worried, and afraid of jinxing it – I enjoyed the ride, full of pride and joy!

So, I’m in the process of releasing “Pride goeth before the fall!” Instead I declare, “Pride and joy make the ride a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I still get reminders from people close to me who carry on my Mom’s work. They give me jabbing reminders designed to minimize pride and joy and maintain loyalty to fear – fear of the mythical fall. But thanks to those I’ve met who live rich and vibrant lives filled with the energy and glee that exists on the other side of fear, I am able to do the same.

If you have also experienced fear of the mythical fall, I encourage you to try:

  • Basking in self-pride. Compliment yourself. Acknowledge your accomplishments and the potentiality that exists within you. Stop waiting for others to affirm your strengths, skills and authenticity. Healthy, authentic pride originates within your own heart!  Experience self-pride today and every day!
  • Letting the joy of possibility well up in your imagination. Don’t keep yourself small or deny outrageous adventures out of fear that something negative might happen. Instead dream about opportunities and take positive risks. Let possibilities fill your heart! It’s so much more fun!
  • Allowing others’ joy to spill over into your soul. When you see someone experiencing joy and pride, don’t let it frighten you. Notice the thoughts you project onto them, the “what if’s”, and realize they are your fears, not the other person’s. Don’t pollute their joy. It’s just not your job. Instead allow their joy to seep into your soul and fill up your empty spaces.

We all get to choose if we embrace joy and pride, or if we minimize it. I know which way I’m headed. How about you?